Cave: I loved HOWL.It’s a big departure from your debut film The Seasoning House.I saw HOWL as a love letter to the creature features of the ’70s and ’80s in particular Clive Barker’s Rawhead Rex, Horror Express and The Howling.Was it your intention to pay homage to these classic horrors?
Paul: I got the script for HOWL after The Seasoning House which was so dark,brutal and bleak.I was looking to do something completely different because I didn’t want to be pidgeon holed into one particular type of movie. The script for HOWL came along after the producer had seen The Seasoning House at FrightFest and liked how I handled the tension and claustrophobia. The script had a retro feel harking back and riffing on movies like Rawhead Rex and Horror Express which i really liked.
Everyone at the moment seems to be trying to be innovative and change the genre which is a great thing but I miss the more humorous retro type movies.we were taking a risk hoping people still want to see the classic horrors of the ’70s and ’80s.We wanted to make it contemporary by adding up to date practical and visual effects and shooting on a green screen.It was my intention to make HOWL a retro popcorn movie.
Cave: That totally comes across.Your background is in special effects and prosthetics starting with I Zombie: Chronicles of Pain (1998).What made you want to take the leap into directing? You had provided sfx and make up on many horror films?
Paul: Basically i have been working in make up and sfx for 20 years .I’ve done everything I want to do in prosthetics .Five years before The Seasoning House I was thinking I’ve worked with good and bad directors and part of what I was doing in regards to sfx was help tell the story by visualizing scripts, contributing and designing.I have a huge love of film and it became a transitional thing where I wanted to start directing my own movies.I have seen bad directors with no vision and directors with big budgets not bringing anything new to the table.A lot of it was born out of a desire to make my own films and tell my own stories but also frustration.I find directing fresh and exciting and so far people have responded very favourably to what I have made.I can’t imagine a better job than directing your own movie!
Cave: Absolutely.Did you design or contribute to the werewolf make up effects in HOWL? Was it weird letting that side go to concentrate on directing?
Paul: While shooting The Seasoning House I kind of let go and let the effects guys get on with it. You hire all these great make up artists and you have to let people flourish. On HOWL I was busy with the digital effects planning and how I was going to shoot it. I let the make up guys bring their own ideas to the table.I was initially involved at the design and concept stage so I always knew what type of creature I wanted.
Cave: You had supplied make up on werewolf films previously.The creatures in HOWL resemble a skinned, hairless werewolf mixed with cgi.
Paul: I knew it would require a practical feature suit with cgi face and legs. I didn’t want it too hairy and wanted it to be an ugly, fucked up Wrong Turn looking dude! I wanted to take away the mythology of the human transforming into a werewolf and back again.I wanted to make it contemporary, a virus bite mutates the creature over several years,bones breaking and re-setting, muscles tearing and re-forming.I had a strong idea of what I wanted but I let the effects guys go with it and through collaboration we achieved a great result with our creatures.
Cave: I thought the production design was impressive especially the train carriage design which lent a fantasy feel to the proceedings.
Paul: We had to design a train with enough room to fit 30 people plus creatures and wire stunts.Design wise we wanted the train to have more of an international feel.People have shot in normal trains before and it’s tended not to look very good as people fall over each other and it’s hard getting interesting camera angles. With our wider train build I was able to do steady cam moves and take longer shots which gives it that fantasy feel as well.
Cave: Was working on The Descent with Neil Marshall a highlight of your career? How did you both meet?
Paul: It was via production designer Simon Bowles who I had worked with on a bunch of movies.He was getting ready to do The Descent and he recommended me to Neil.We met and talked about my ideas for the creatures.Silicone make up had been used to death so we were pushing for a new fresh design look for the creatures.I was really hungry for it and pitched really well for it and he liked my designs.
Cave: You cast Shauna Macdonald (The Descent) in HOWL.I thought it was clever that we don’t see her demise in the film as we are used to her fighting, survival spirit.Was that intentional?
Paul: I thought a lot about whether to show Shauna’s death or not.At the time we thought HOWL was going to be a 15 certificate movie but as it turned out we got an 18 certificate which we were all a bit surprised at.
Cave: You assembled a first rate cast with Sean Pertwee, Ed Speelers, Rosie Day (returning from The Seasoning House), Holly Weston and Elliot Cowan. Did you have these actors in mind before casting?
Paul: Pretty much.Sean Pertwee and i had been talking about doing HOWL for about a year.I contacted Rosie and said I have a great part for you in my next film.She said can I ask one question, ”Do I speak !” I said yes,a lot and she accepted.
Cave: How important is fan approval when showing HOWL at horror festivals like FrightFest and Grimm Up North ?
Paul: Horror films, especially low budget ones, depend on horror festivals for mass publicity as their budgets don’t usually stretch to big advertising campaigns.Premiering a film at a horror festival gets the buzz going.Fans who like a film create a significant buzz themselves via reviews and tweets which is extremely important.Most film distributor’s don’t want to spend a lot of money on promoting your movie so we rely on the good will from the fans which I’m really appreciative of.
Cave: How was the audience response to HOWL at this years FrightFest ?
Paul: I was so happy.I was really nervous before the screening as it’s not the goriest film in show and I had not sat with HOWL for long as a finished piece as we had only recently completed it.I was hoping people would like the retro horror vibe and humor of it. Everyone was very receptive to it so it was a huge relief for me that the audience loved it.
Cave: What’s next for you as director? Can you tell us about the next project you have been attached to The Swimming Hole ?
Paul: It’s a survival horror is all i can say at this point.We are putting it together at the moment.Hopefully there will be an announcement soon of my next film.I always tend not to say too much before a project has been green lit.
HOWL IS RELEASED IN UK CINEMAS ON 16TH OCTOBER AND ON DVD 26TH OCTOBER.